Residents return home after California pipeline blowout

California regulators order a utility to survey all its natural gas lines.

Last Updated: Sep 13, 2010, 11:15 AM IST

San Bruno: Residents returned to the ruined hillsides of their suburban San Francisco neighbourhood, three days after a natural gas pipeline exploded into a deadly fireball.

A nearby segment of the line was due to be replaced, the utility responsible said, because it ran through a heavily urbanised area and the risk of failure was "unacceptably high”.

That 30-inch (76-centimetre) diameter pipe about two and a half miles north was installed in 1948, and was slated to be swapped for new 24-inch (61-centimetre) pipe.

California regulators ordered the utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, to survey all its natural gas lines in the state in hopes of heading off another disaster.

Investigators still don`t know what caused Thursday night`s blast, and even as dozens of people returned to their scorched homes accompanied by gas workers to help restore pilot lights and make sure it is safe to turn power back on officials tried to confirm just how many people died.

The remains of at least four people have been found, and authorities have said five people are missing and at least 60 injured, some critically.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said they`re still trying to confirm whether some of the remains they found are human and identify victims.

Streets were crowded yesterday with PG&E cars and trucks, and representatives were handing out gift certificates for grocery stores. Nearly 50 homes were destroyed and seven severely damaged in the blast, while dozens of other homes suffered less severe damage in the fire that sped across 15 acres.

PTI